When it comes to rat infestations, one of the pest control methods that springs to mind is rat poison. Rodenticides are indeed effective, but they have a major downside – the risk of rat poisoning not just in humans, but also in pets.
How rat poison works
Most rat poisons in the market are made of blood thinners like brodifacoum and other variations of warfarin. They work by reducing the vitamin K in the body of their victims, which in turn reduces the victims’ blood clotting abilities.
This can be beneficial for those who are at risk of blood clotting. But it can be very dangerous for healthy and regular bodies. A body that has a severely reduced blood clotting ability is at risk of excessive internal bleeding. This internal bleeding is what kills the rats.
Unfortunately, the humans and pets in your household, are also at risk of the dangerous effects of these blood thinners. To make matters worse, rats are slowly developing a resistance to warfarin, forcing manufacturers to formulate rodenticides with more active ingredients.
Some of the most common of these active ingredients are strychnine and zinc phosphide. And they both present new health risks to you and everybody in your household.
Common ways to get rat poisoning in humans
Since most rat poisons are basically blood thinners, they are at their most dangerous when ingested. When a human or a pet ingests enough of the rat poison, they may experience the effects that have been intended for rat control.
But there are also other ingredients that can be toxic when inhaled, touched, or exposed to your eyes. So, make sure to wear protective gear like goggles, masks, and gloves when you are dealing with rat poisons.
Here are the common ways humans get rat poisoning:
- The rat poison is ingested from the container. Unsupervised children and pets may get curious and consume rat poison you have stored in cabinets. When storing rat poisons, make sure to put them in spots where they can’t be easily reached by those who don’t know any better. Also, avoid putting them in spots where you typically store food items, like kitchen cabinets.
- It is ingested from where it has been placed to control rats. It is really important to supervise children and pets when you are using rat poison. They may get to the area where you have placed the poison and end up consuming it. To minimize the risk, it’s best to place the poison only in places that children and pets can’t reach. Also, be mindful of outdoor wildlife that may end up consuming it as well.
- It is ingested after it has been spilled into food. Rat poison may get mixed into food and water and accidentally consumed. To prevent this from happening, always store rat poison away from any consumables, including pet food.
Symptoms of rat poisoning in humans
There are many rat poisons that can kill rats even after just one exposure. But many rat poisons require multiple doses to work, and they usually take up to two weeks to finally be lethal.
Symptoms of rat poisoning in humans will depend on a variety of factors, such as the strength and ingredients of the rat poison, the amount ingested, and the victim’s body mass. The occurrence of the symptoms may take a few hours or even a few days.
Here are the common symptoms you should lookout for:
- Dehydration or extreme thirst
- Heart attacks
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscle spasms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Spontaneous bleeding from the gums, nose, or skin
- Upset stomach
The more serious the symptoms, the more likely that the rat poison has already matured and has become more dangerous. The earlier you realize that the victim has experienced rat poisoning, the better. Look for other signs if you don’t see symptoms, such as spilled rat poison containers and moved furniture where you have put the rat poison.
Treatments to rat poisoning in humans
Unfortunately, there is no simple way to treat rat poison. You can’t just buy over-the-counter medication and expect it to counteract the poison and get it over with. Your priority is to seek medical attention immediately.
- Go to a doctor as soon as you can. If you can’t go to a doctor immediately, the least you could do is to call poison control. Their professionals will be able to guide you on what to do, depending on the rat poison ingested and the severity of the victim’s condition.
- Take vitamin K. There are other things you can do, as long as you have been properly instructed by a doctor or a poison control specialist. One thing they can recommend is to take vitamin K to counteract the blood thinner in the rat poison. But remember that this will not completely eliminate the health risk of the rat poison. It is a temporary containment measure until you seek medical attention.
- Remove or wash contaminated areas. If clothes have been exposed to the rat poison, remove them immediately and wash the victim’s skin. If eyes have been exposed, wash them and remove contact lenses if there are any.
Alternative rat control methods
If your home is suffering from a rat infestation, you don’t have to solely rely on rat poisons to get rid of your rat problem. There are other rat control methods out there you can try.
- Use rat baits and traps. The great thing about rat baits and traps is that they don’t have toxic chemicals. Just place some food that rats find attractive and trap them in some kind of mechanism, like containment traps and snap traps. But remember that different rats have different diets. It’s important to identify the kind of rat in your home first, so you know what kind of bait will be effective.
- Try home remedies. Rats have a strong sense of smell, so they can be easily overwhelmed by strong odors like those from essential oils, onions, and peppers. But remember that these natural ingredients are merely repellents. They will only drive rats away, not kill them. And many times, this method is not very effective against advanced infestations.
- Keep your home rat-free. You can keep your home free of rats so you don’t have to use rat control methods in the first place. The most basic things you can do are to store your food and water properly in containers and refrigerators, practice proper waste disposal, and fix and seal all possible passageways like cracks and holes.